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When the Corn Died: Chapter Sixteen

We Pick up Our Story

The Harpers have arrived in Wenatchee, Washington, hoping for a new start with better fortune. Their timing was exquisite as Peter Harper and his son immediately found work at the B & B Produce Company, and the women, Evelyn and Emma, have found a fallen angel to help at Appleby’s General Store.

Let’s peek in and see what’s happening.


Two Weeks Later

It’s a busy time of year in Wenatchee, that’s for damn sure. Peter Junior and me have been working sun-up to sun-down ever since we hit town, boxing apples, preparing them for shipment, loading them on rail cars and trucks, dust in the air, hotter than Hades, sweat pouring off us, all for twenty-five cents an hour thanks to President Roosevelt setting a minimum wage. Otis Armstrong, our foreman, grumbles about the high wages which is pretty funny since it don’t come from his pocket and these apples are flying out of here, meaning someone is buying them and profits are being made up top the ladder.

We’re damned grateful to be working. Still, I can’t help but wonder what happens when the last apple has been shipped and business dies down for the winter. Will we be kept on? Sure could use a job this winter; expenses of living don’t stop just because the corn died and the apples no longer grow on the branches.

Evelyn just says to stop my worrying, things will work out, have faith in the Lord and in our family, and I know her words to be true but still, a man has to worry some over his family or what else is there?

It was lunchtime one day in late September. Peter Junior and I had taken our lunches down to the river bank, as we normally do, and we were sitting under a giant oak when Otis Armstrong came walking up.

“Excuse me for interrupting your break, gentlemen. I just wanted to give you a glimpse of the future here at B & B’s. When winter comes we cut our workforce in half. Don’t have much choice, really. No produce to ship for eight months, and during the winter we really just repair equipment and make sure we’re ready for the next season, so don’t need as many men.”

I wasn’t likin’ the direction of this conversation but managed to keep my mouth shut and let Armstrong deliver the news.

“That being said, a man would be a damned fool to let go two hard workers like you two, so I’m here to let you know you’ve got jobs over the winter. If you want them, that is.”

I looked at my son and he was smiling back at me. He nodded then I turned back to Otis.

“We’re mighty appreciative, Otis, and we accept. Thank you kindly!”

I could hardly wait to get home, even though that meant Evelyn telling me she told me so with that devil smile on her face.


Meanwhile, at Appleby’s

The last two weeks had been a time of mercy for Evelyn and Emma. Without a plan being made or a hand being shook, it just became common for the two women to show up at Appleby’s about opening time and help out at the store. Evelyn would usually help Victor (Mr. Appleby) get the store ready for customers and Emma would go to the back room to take care of Mrs. Appleby (Rose). Little Timothy would help out where needed and he was a particular blessing with Mrs. Appleby, she with no children of her own and finding great comfort in that little boy with the blessed smile.

Rose had a weak heart, for lack of a better description, and she was weak most the time, her breath short, her color poor, but she was a loving woman who adored her husband and she was weighed down with guilt over the worry her health was causing her good man.

And yes, he was worried, so much so that he decided, after discussing matters with his wife, to approach Evelyn with a proposition one late-September morning. He found her sorting through sundries with the help of little Timothy.

“Evelyn, might I have a word with you?”

She wiped her hands on her apron and stood.

“Of course, Victor. What can I do for you?”

“It’s what you’ve done for us, Evelyn, you and Emma and this wonderful boy. I was talking to my Rose last night and we feel we are the luckiest people on earth. In two week’s time your family has entered our lives and helped us so much, and we want to repay that kindness if you’ll allow us to do so.”

“My goodness, Victor, kindness is not done with expectations of repayment. You know that as well as I do. We’re just happy to help you kind folks.”

“Be that as it may, Evelyn, but Rose and me still want to extend a hand of help to you. We have some acreage outside of town, out on Haymaker’s Road. At one time, when we first moved here from Pennsylvania, back in ’18, we had visions of owning us a farm and growing apples, but then this opportunity came up and we bought this store and the farm, well, it just sits there unattended. We were wondering if your family would like to live on that farm. It’s only got a two-room cabin on it, but it’s just short of seventy-five acres up on the bluff, good soil, the kind of soil if treated right will produce for a man. And it’s got a barn and a stream on it and, well, Rose and me would be honored if your family lived there and worked it in your spare time. One stipulation, though: I could still use some help here at the store.”

There wasn’t much needed to be said to all that. Evelyn’s tears said it all.

Looking west from Wenatchee

Looking west from Wenatchee

At the End of the Day

Peter Junior and I were just wrapping up the day at the warehouse. The sun was fading fast, cutting into the heat, allowing a man to breathe, when Evelyn, Emma and Timothy appeared outside the warehouse in our old pickup truck. I kissed my wife and felt her love and strength flow through me.

“You and Junior hop in the back, husband. We have a surprise to show you.”

Twenty years of marriage to Evelyn taught me to not ask questions when her jaw was set and she had that devilish look in her eyes, so we did as instructed and held on as Evelyn drove us north out of town along a road named Haymaker’s. We’d been driving for about fifteen minutes when she turned off on a driveway that led under a canopy of elm trees and finally came to an end at a weathered cabin.

There was a barn a hundred yards out back and what looked to be several hundred apple trees in various stages if neglect, their branches weighted down with unpicked fruit. Evelyn shut down the engine and got out of the cab. We all did the same and stood looking at the cabin.

“What’s this, Evelyn?” I asked.

The smile returned. With glistening eyes she looked at me.

“This is home, husband, and all around us is love.”

See You Next Week

Judging from your comments you are enjoying this family, the Harpers, and you are enjoying them for the same reasons I have enjoyed my family over the years. They are good people, simple people, people who believe in the power of love and the importance of kindness and respect.

So, for them, I thank you, and I’ll see you next week with another installment of the Harper story.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 09, 2016:

Michael my friend, thank you! A good writer will tell a story that others can relate to. That is my goal, for my characters to be very recognizable to my readers, so thank you.

blessings always

Michael Milec on September 08, 2016:

Kindness is rewarded by kindness in honest hard work where humans continue to to be ordinary people, and you my friend have picked up a real life story as my memory reminds me of a similar happening in my lengthy journey on this good old planet earth. You made me feel at home with Harpers, at certain point suggesting an idea they might have been a Slovak descendants. ( ha ha). A very pleasurable read.

Be blessed and prosperous. Good night.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 29, 2016:

There is for sure, Sha, and I'll probably end this series on that note. I see no reason to continue. They have found happiness and they deserve it.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 28, 2016:

Kindness begets kindness and love fills the gaps. I was so excited when Mr. Appleby offered the cabin and land to the Harpers. Life just couldn't be more perfect. And to think - not too long ago, Peter Harper was looking at no viable means of supporting his family, thanks to the swarm of grasshoppers that destroyed his crops.

There is indeed a silver lining in every dark cloud.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2016:

Maria, you are never late when visiting the Harpers. They will always leave the light on for ya! LOL



Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on June 23, 2016:

What a feel good installment, dear Bill. Even though I'm running late, you and the Harpers always make me feel welcome.

Decency and hope is a winning combination in this series. Love, Maria

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Lawrence, thank you for the kind words. You are right, it's hard not to cheer for the Harpers. Enjoy that apple, my friend.

Lawrence Hebb on June 17, 2016:


I don't know about Evelyn having a tear in her eye on hearing about the farm but I had a lump in my throat!

There are some characters you just want good things to happen to and the Harpers are those kind.

That reminds me, I've got a big juicy green Granny Smith apple in my bag. Maybe I'll enjoy that now!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2016:

I'm glad you did too, Vkwok...thank you so much.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2016:

It does for sure, Deb. Thanks as always!

Victor W. Kwok from Hawaii on June 14, 2016:

I'm glad I decided to finally catch up on the hubs I missed. This is a wonderful chapter, Bill!

Deb Hirt on June 13, 2016:

Sounds like a mailbox is up and coming.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 13, 2016:

Missy, that is very sweet of you. Thank you so very much. Now I must go read your latest.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 13, 2016:

Genna, thank you so much. As for LetterPile, I had no idea. Is that a good thing? LOL I'll have to check it out.

Missy Smith from Florida on June 12, 2016:

Yes, you are so right. I do enjoy this story. It's peaceful to me, and like today when I had such a hard time making it through the stressful day, your story relaxes me back to a more simple time, a time of unconditional love without possession, to when love had no stipulations, it was just felt and appreciated. Thanks Bill.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on June 11, 2016:

"...and profits are being made up top the ladder." What a clever metaphor (like Appleby's Store). When reading I wondered if October harvests of apples for cider might tide them over for a bit when Otis showed up on the riverbank and saved the day. And Victor's offer of working their farm was the deserving kismet of love, hope and kindness for our beloved Harper's. I am so enjoying this beautifully written series, and look forward to the next chapter.

Congratulations on having a number of your stories published in LetterPile! Kudos. :-)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 10, 2016:

Dee, the Harpers are the kind of people I wish I had for neighbors. LOL Thanks so much!

Dianna Mendez on June 09, 2016:

Twenty years of marriage ... now that is a fact that holds water. Love the relationship between the Harpers.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 09, 2016:

It is for sure, Rasma! It is for sure!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 09, 2016:

That is music to my ears, DDE...thank you!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on June 09, 2016:

Loved the ending. Home is where the heart is.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 08, 2016:

Your story gets better and better each time.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2016:

Thanks for the tip about constant content. I'll pass it along to the guy who asked about it....like you, too busy doing things that pay bills but don't move me too much. The Harpers assure me they will return next week.

Shannon Henry from Texas on June 08, 2016:

Unfortunately I haven't been up to much here lately. I prefer creative writing, but I've mostly been focusing on boring web content articles outside of HP. Gotta make a little extra. Dang bills. They just won't stop. Which reminds me, your last mail bag hub had a question about where to sell articles. . .I've found Constant-Content to be the best place thus far. Textbroker pays only pennies. Here, I set my own prices, but they keep 35%.

Anyway, don't keep us waiting too long or we will worry about the fate of the Harper's. ;)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2016:

Shannon, thank you....next week for that chapter....now I need to go see what you've been up to lately.

Shannon Henry from Texas on June 08, 2016:

And kindness prevails yet again. Now I'll wait patiently for the next chapter.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2016:

Zulma, I had my doubts, but I was watching a rerun of an old Waltons show, and I thought you know, if people are still watching this show after all these years, then why not a feel-good short story with that same vibe to it?

Why not indeed!

Thanks my friend.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on June 07, 2016:

It's so nice to read a gentle story of love and courage. A welcome break from the high-action, high-drama, low-standard dross that seems so popular these days.

It must do you the world of good to know that there is still a place for stories like these.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 06, 2016:

Very true, Dora, and I'm so glad you are enjoying this story. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 06, 2016:

Thank you Alicia! I think their lives will be good from here on....they deserve it!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 06, 2016:

Me too, Jackie, although I'm so busy on this small urban farm, I wonder how I could handle actual acreage. LOL

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 06, 2016:

Hey Sis, how ya doing? Hotter than hell here and I'm about fed up with it. LOL

Thank you so much! This family is close to me, and I love the reaction to them. I don't know if this country is capable of reversing trends and going back to simpler times and a set of principles, but in this story it is not only possible but the norm...and I think we all need to at least read about that type of life.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 06, 2016:

Vellur, thank you! I am so happy that people are enjoying this story. See you next week? I hope so!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 06, 2016:

I love the positivity despite ideal circumstances. That last line is one that many people wish they could say or hear.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 05, 2016:

I like the way the story is going, Bill. It's great that the Harpers have found happiness, at least at the moment. They deserve it.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 05, 2016:

I just love it Bill and it is things daydreams are made of that really do sometimes come true!

I can't wait to start farming...well this has kind of been a lifelong daydream of mine!

Suzie from Carson City on June 05, 2016:

`A time when work-ethic and kindness was recognized, appreciated and rewarded~~two good families meet. Two families lives are changed for the better. Out of goodness comes goodness. What a wonderful thing.

The new life for the Harpers has a welcome boost for their fresh start. I'm anticipating so much for all of them. Their strength and love through their series of misfortunes brought them out of the darkness into brightness.

The struggles and sadness behind them now, we get to move forward with this amazing family while they show us just how it's done. This story is a world of life's lessons, your readers will take with them and treasure forever. We're ready now for how the Harpers do what they do best. Survive against the unavoidable obstacles and pitfalls of life, without missing a beat, by holding on to one another, their love & determination.

These lessons are sorely needed by every one of us.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 05, 2016:

The Harper's are blessed with a place to live. Love the way the story is going and the sun shines once again in the Harper's family. Looking forward to reading more.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 05, 2016:

Manatita, if we look close enough, we see families like the Harpers all around us. We just have to open our eyes and get rid of the jaded view of life....and I know you know this very well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 05, 2016:

Faith, this was meant to be a feel-good story about love and determination and family, and I'm so glad so many of you are enjoying it. Thank you dear friend, and blessings on this hot Sunday.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 05, 2016:

Well, Pop, they appreciate it, as do I! Thank you so much.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 05, 2016:

Bill, you and the other Bill have an uncanny ability to comment at the same time. How do you two do that? LOL

Thanks my friend and Happy Sunday to you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 05, 2016:

Bill, I so appreciate you being here. Thank you sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 05, 2016:

MizB, I hate to agree, but those days are over for most people, and that saddens me. We are all just too busy chasing our tails.....maybe one of these days I'll retire and stop the chase.

Thank you my friend and Happy Sunday to you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 05, 2016:

Thank you Ruby! It just goes to show that there is still a place in the literary world for stories about love.

manatita44 from london on June 05, 2016:

Cool, soothing and loving too. A matter of every day living. Well done, Bill.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on June 04, 2016:

Bill, I love this series of hope and the Harpers' life of love and hard work. This series certainly provides a great moral to life, which needs a jumpstart in today's world.

Blessings all around here ...my kind of story! One can never go wrong when we place our faith in the good Lord, coupled with taking proactive steps in helping ourselves in not being afraid of hard work and lending a helping hand of love to those who are hurting around us. The best way to live in my book.

So glad the series will continue.

Peace and blessings always

breakfastpop on June 04, 2016:

I always feel better after I visit with the Harpers. Thanks, billy.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on June 03, 2016:

Really a great story Bill. I love it when hard work and perseverance pay off. I do suspect that the Harper's have some difficult times ahead of them but ultimately I think they will prevail and prosper. Have a great weekend.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on June 03, 2016:

Tears of joy, for sure, Bill. Thanks! ;-)

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 03, 2016:

This is a really great story of a loving family, Bill. I hate to say it, but those days are over for most people unless we have some kind of revival of spirit. (I’m not talkin’ religion here, you know what I mean.) There are so many people who would be rich if they worked half as hard at working as they do to get out of work. Have a good weekend, my friend, and think up something else good for the Harpers to get into. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 03, 2016:

I loved this! Good people deserve a helping hand. It seems that everything is coming up roses for the Harper family. Your story telling is so natural. Thank you for sharing. See you next time..

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 03, 2016:

Thank you so much, Larry! Have a great weekend!

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 03, 2016:

An inspiring tale.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 03, 2016:

Thank you Mike! It's based, in part, on my family, and in part on stories I've heard from other families.

Mr Archer from Missouri on June 03, 2016:

Bill, is this your real family history? Someone you know? It sure feels real to me, and reads like a charm. Just an absolutely wonderful story here. I love it!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 03, 2016:

Eric, you are too kind, but thank you very much. Now get out there and spread the love, Mister!!!!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 03, 2016:

Mike, my head will swell if you keep talking like that. LOL Thank you so much. I happen to believe in those things you just mentioned. I must since I've been working now for over fifty years and have no plans on retiring. I guess the lessons of the father stuck with his son.

Thanks my friend!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 03, 2016:

I needed a jolt of love this morning. Not that I am not surrounded with it in my home and friends. But sometimes I just don't feel the juice. Well Dr. Bill this was just the medicine I needed. It touched my heart and now the juices are flowing. Your stories are a gift. Thanks.

Old Poolman on June 03, 2016:

What a great story Bill with a real feel-good theme.

What this story tells me is that even though this was a long time ago, there is still opportunity for those who are willing to work for it. But many have never learned the rewards that can come from hard work. They refer to their neighbor who has been successful in life as "lucky".

I recall a story about a professional golfer who made a magnificent hole-in-one shot. A fan commented to him that he "sure was lucky". The golfer replied, "I find that the more I practice the luckier I get".

The family in your story are obviously not afraid to work hard and are more than willing to help most anyone.

You sir, would make a great life-coach for those who just can't seem to get started with their own lives.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 03, 2016:

Happy Friday, Janine. I just knew you would enjoy a story about family values and love. Have a great weekend....in the nineties here.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on June 03, 2016:

Aw, love that this is home and that love is indeed all around. And you are right truly just enjoying the Harper's story here. Happy Friday now Bill and have a wonderful weekend ahead, as well!! :)

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